A mere 1.1 seconds separates the top eighteen riders after the opening day of free practice for Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix with Bridgestone-shod Casey Stoner leading the way around the Estoril circuit. Ducati's Stoner was one of only two ...
A mere 1.1 seconds separates the top eighteen riders after the opening day of free practice for Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix with Bridgestone-shod Casey Stoner leading the way around the Estoril circuit.
Ducati's Stoner was one of only two riders to lap under 1m38s, setting his quickest lap midway through the afternoon session, and his best lap time of 1m37.950s was just marginally short of the fastest lap in last year's race (1m37.914s Kenny Roberts Junior).
Five Bridgestone-shod riders made it into the top ten of the combined practice times with Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet on fine form in fifth, Suzuki's John Hopkins in sixth, Ducati's Loris Capirossi in seventh and Pramac d'Antin rider Alex Barros, winner of the 2005 Portuguese MotoGP at Estoril, in ninth place.
Bridgestone's work on this opening day was focussed as usual on conducting an initial evaluation of the different tyre specifications that the teams have within their allocation of 14 front tyres and 17 rear tyres this weekend. With under one second difference in the best lap times between 17 riders, it has been one of the most fiercely contested Fridays of the season so far and looks set to offer a thrilling battle over the 28-lap race distance at the later than usual start time of 15.00 local time on Sunday afternoon.
Tyre Talk with Tohru Ubukata - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager, Motorcycle Race Tyre Development
How did Bridgestone tyres perform on today's return to the tricky Estoril circuit?
"Iam pleased with our results from today's practice, especially considering the difficulties we faced at this Estoril circuit last season. We evaluated medium and hard specification tyres today and the performance of both specs has been promising. Estoril is a very technical circuit with a disproportion of left and right hand turns and the long start-finish straight also demands a lot from the machine, so our teams have also worked a lot on the settings for their bikes while we look at our tyre options for the coming weekend."
Were track conditions as Bridgestone expected?
"The track was quite dusty today but this is something that we expect on the first day There was also quite a big difference in track temperature between the morning and afternoon sessions, in fact the track was perhaps hotter than we expected this afternoon. Nevertheless, our tyres still demonstrated a competitive level of performance."
How indicative do you think today's practice will be for the rest of the weekend?
"I am pleased that we have enjoyed a trouble-free opening day, but we must remember that it is only the first day of practice. The field is very close with only one second separating most riders. Our rivals appear to have a strong pace but teams have been working a lot on bike settings so tomorrow will give a clearer picture of relative performance. Even so, I am more satisfied with the improvement that we have shown compared to last season and I hope that we can continue in this way for the rest of the weekend."